Jennifer Whittet is Daytona Beach Police’s first female deputy chief

DAYTONA BEACH — In the 1982 movie “An Officer and a Gentleman,” a ruthless drill sergeant barks at female Navy aviation officer candidate Casey Seeger that she’ll never make it through the training or become an authoritative leader because she’s just a woman trying to be a man.

Something very similar happened to Jennifer Whittet in the earliest days of her career in a rural northern Wisconsin county dotted with small towns. She was the second female deputy ever hired by the Vilas County Sheriff’s Office, and a male field training officer essentially told her she was wasting her time.

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“He said I would not make it,” Whittet recalled him predicting during their late 1990s conversation.

Like the drill sergeant in the movie, Whittet’s training officer could not have been more wrong. Over the 23 years that followed him trying to steer her out of the nearly all-male sheriff’s office, she went on to climb the ranks in the Daytona Beach Police Department, and she’s now a deputy chief. 

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When the 44-year-old was promoted in November, she became the first-ever female deputy police chief in Daytona Beach. She’s also only the second woman to reach that rank in the Seventh Judicial Circuit that includes Volusia, Flagler, Putnam and St. Johns counties. The New Smyrna Beach Police Department has also had a female deputy chief.